Google recently unveiled its newest top-tier smartphones, the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. These phones run on Google’s custom Tensor processor. One standout aspect of these devices is their commitment to providing software support for a remarkable 7 year duration. This includes updates for the Android operating system, security enhancements, and periodic feature additions. Essentially, this implies that Google pledges to maintain support for the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro until the year 2030, a level of longevity not commonly seen in the world of Android devices. However, it’s essential to examine the reliability of this commitment and understand its implications for consumers.
Google’s track record on other products
Google, renowned for its penchant for innovation and experimentation, also discontinues products that don’t achieve the desired success or profitability. Examples of retired Google products include Google Reader, Google Wave, Google Plus, Google Glass, Google Allo, and many others. Interestingly, there exists a website solely dedicated to cataloging Google’s discontinued offerings over time. In this discussion, we’ll delve into the motivations behind Google’s decisions to discontinue its products and consider the repercussions for both users and developers.
Google Reader: A Popular RSS Reader That Was Shut Down in 2013
Google Reader was an online RSS reader that allowed people to subscribe to news updates from different websites and read them in an organized manner. It started in 2005 and quickly became one of the most popular RSS readers online. It had millions of users, and many other apps worked with it.
However, in 2013, Google said it would close down Google Reader on July 1. They mentioned that fewer people were using it, and more people were using different ways to read online content. This decision upset many loyal users and developers. They relied on Google Reader for daily news and built things around it. Many users had to find other RSS readers, like Feedly, The Old Reader, Inoreader, and others. Some developers tried to make copies or backups of Google Reader like The Comma Feed Project and Reader is Dead.
Google had a few main reasons for ending Google Reader. It didn’t fit with their plan of focusing on social and mobile products. They wanted to make their social network, Google Plus, the main way people shared and found content online. Google also wanted to simplify its list of products and put more effort into things that made more money and seemed more promising. They also faced legal problems from publishers who said Google was using their content without asking or paying.
Stopping Google Reader had a few effects on users and developers. For users, they lost an easy and dependable way to read news from different places. They also lost their data, like what they subscribed to, their preferences, tags, and saved items, which they had collected for years. For developers, it meant losing a big and active group of users. They also lost a powerful tool they used to create new apps and services. Plus, they lost a way to make money from ads or premium features.
Google Wave: A Collaborative Communication Platform That Was Discontinued in 2010
Google Ocean was a web-based platform designed to transform online communication. It combined email, instant messaging, wikis, blogs, social networking, and document editing all in one place. It began in 2009 as an invite-only preview and became available to everyone in 2010.
But in 2010, Google surprised many by saying they wouldn’t continue developing Google Ocean as a standalone product. They gave reasons like not enough people were using it and not enough feedback. This news disappointed users and developers who had put time and effort into exploring what Google Ocean could do. Some liked it for its innovation and potential, while others found it too complicated and confusing. Some developers made add-ons and apps for Google Ocean, like robots, gadgets, embeds, and wavelets.
The main reason Google stopped Google Ocean was that it didn’t get enough users who understood its value and how to use it. Google Ocean tried to solve too many problems all at once without a clear plan. It also had technical problems, like being slow, having bugs, security issues, and not working well with other things. Besides, Google had to compete with other communication platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Slack, and others.
Ending Google Ocean had effects on users and developers. For users, they lost a unique and innovative way to communicate online with lots of features. They also lost their stuff, like their waves, contacts, and settings. For developers, it meant losing access to cool tech that let them create real-time and collaborative apps and services. They also lost a chance to make money from ads or premium stuff.
Google Plus: A Social Network That Was Shut Down in 2019
Google+ was a social network designed to compete with Facebook. It allowed users to create and join interest-based communities, share and discover content, and interact with others. Google+ was launched in 2011 and was integrated with various other Google products like Gmail, YouTube, Google Photos, and Google Maps.
However, in 2019, Google announced that it would discontinue Google+ for consumers. This decision was driven by low user engagement and security concerns, following a series of data breaches that exposed the personal information of millions of users to third-party developers. Additionally, Google+ struggled to challenge Facebook’s dominance in the social media landscape. Some users expressed disappointment and nostalgia for Google+, while others remained indifferent or were unaware of its existence. A few developers have also created apps and games for Google+, such as Hangouts, Photosphere, and Ripples.
The primary reason for Google’s decision to end Google+ was its failure to deliver on its promise of providing a meaningful and engaging social experience. Google+ had become overly complex and lacked a clear identity or purpose, attempting to cater to too broad an audience. Furthermore, it suffered from a lack of user adoption and retention and failed to differentiate itself from other social networks. Additionally, Google faced legal and regulatory scrutiny related to its privacy practices and data handling.
The discontinuation of Google+ had several implications for both users and developers. Users lost access to a social network that facilitated connections with like-minded individuals, content sharing, and interaction with others. They also lost their data, including profiles, posts, comments, photos, videos, circles, and collections that they had shared on Google+. For developers, it meant losing access to a platform that enabled them to create apps and games that leveraged Google’s social features. It also meant losing a potential source of revenue from advertising or in-app purchases.
Google Glass: A Wearable Device That Was Discontinued in 2015
Google designed Google Glass, a wearable device, to provide users with a hands-free and immersive way to access information and services through a small display attached to a pair of glasses. In 2013, Google introduced it as an exclusive product for a select group of individuals invited to participate in the Glass Explorer Program.
However, in 2015, Google declared that it would cease selling Google Glass to consumers and discontinue the Glass Explorer Program due to substantial negative feedback and criticism. This decision followed a wave of discontent from both users and non-users who voiced concerns about its high price, limited functionality, poor battery life, privacy issues, social stigmatization, and safety concerns. While some users praised Google Glass for its innovation and potential, others mocked it for its awkwardness and invasiveness. Several developers also created apps and services for Google Glass, such as Field Trip, Word Lens, Strava, and others.
The primary reason for Google’s decision to halt Google Glass was its inability to meet the expectations and requirements of consumers seeking a wearable device that could genuinely enhance their lives. Google Glass was perceived as too expensive and exclusive, making it inaccessible and unaffordable for many. Furthermore, Google Glass lacked a clearly defined use case and value proposition, making it challenging for users to justify its purchase and everyday use. Additionally, Google faced ethical and legal challenges from regulators questioning its impact on privacy, security, health, and societal norms.
The discontinuation of Google Glass had several consequences for both users and developers. For users, it meant losing access to a wearable device that provided a hands-free and immersive way of accessing information and services through a small display. It also entailed the loss of personal data, including photos, videos, contacts, and settings, that they had stored on Google Glass. For developers, it meant losing access to an innovative technology that enabled them to create apps and services utilizing Google’s voice, vision, and location capabilities. It also meant losing a potential source of revenue from advertising or premium features.
However, it’s important to note that not all Google products share the same fate. Some have stood the test of time and have enjoyed ongoing updates and enhancements. For example, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Photos, YouTube, and Chrome are among the most beloved and extensively utilized Google services, and they have consistently evolved, introducing fresh features. Furthermore, Google has seen success and provided strong support for certain hardware products, including the Chromecast, Nest smart home devices, and Pixelbook laptops.
The case of Pixel phones
Regarding Pixel phones, Google’s track record is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, people have praised Pixel phones for their excellent camera quality, smooth software experience, and speedy updates. On the flip side, Pixel phones have encountered challenges like limited battery life, restricted availability, steep price tags, and a perceived lack of innovation.
Additionally, Google’s support for older Pixel devices has been inconsistent. For example, the original Pixel and Pixel XL from 2016 got three years of operating system (OS) updates and security patches. In contrast, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL from 2017 received four years of security patches but only three years of OS updates. The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL from 2018 enjoyed four years of both OS updates and security patches, while the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL from 2019 had three years for both. In 2020, Google granted the Pixel 5 five years of both OS updates and security patches. However, the Pixel 6, released in 2021, received three years of OS updates and five years of security patches.
There’s no consistent pattern or rationale behind Google’s support policy for Pixel phones. It appears to depend on a variety of factors, like the type of chipset used, market demand, and competition. However, the introduction of Tensor, Google’s custom chip for Pixel phones, could potentially bring positive changes to this situation.
The impact of Tensor
Tensor is a special chip made by Google just for Pixel phones. It’s built on Samsung’s Exynos technology, but Google added its own AI hardware and software to it. According to Google, Tensor brings new abilities like better speech recognition, understanding human language, computer vision, and photography. What’s more, Tensor also lets Google have more control over how Pixel phones’ hardware and software work together, which could lead to better performance, efficiency, and security.
One of the big advantages of Tensor is that it lets Google support Pixel phones for longer than what was possible with Qualcomm chips. Qualcomm makes chips for many Android phones, but it also has its own rules about how long it provides drivers and updates for its chips. This affects how long Android phone makers can give out OS updates and security fixes for their devices. For example, Qualcomm only supported its Snapdragon 835 chip for three years, which meant devices using that chip couldn’t get Android 11 or later versions.
But with Tensor, Google doesn’t have to depend on Qualcomm or any other company for its support rules. Google can decide how long it wants to support its chip and give out drivers and updates as needed. That’s why Google can promise seven years of software support for the Pixel 8 series, which is similar to how long Apple supports its iPhones. This also means Google can offer consistent and timely updates for Pixel phones without relying on outside factors.
The implications for consumers
The offer of seven years of software support for the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro is a significant selling point for people who want long-lasting and secure smartphones. This means that if you buy a Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro today, you can use it until 2030 without worrying about missing out on new Android features, security updates, or Google services. It also means you can save money and help reduce electronic waste by not needing to upgrade your phone every few years.
However, there are some important things to keep in mind. First, the promise of seven years of software support doesn’t guarantee that the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro will get all the future Android updates and features that Google releases. Some updates or features might be only for newer Pixel devices or might not work with older ones. For example, Google introduced the Adaptive Sound feature with the Pixel 5, but the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL didn’t receive it.
Second, even with the promise of seven years of software support, it doesn’t mean the Pixel 8 series won’t have any hardware problems or defects that could affect how well it works or how long it lasts. For instance, some Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL users had issues with screen burn-in, a blue tint, and audio problems.
Third, although Google says it will provide seven years of software support, it doesn’t guarantee that Google won’t change its mind or policies in the future. Google has a history of discontinuing products or services that aren’t profitable or popular enough, and it could do the same with Pixel phones if they don’t meet its expectations or goals.
So, when thinking about buying a Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro, it’s important to consider both the benefits and potential drawbacks. The promise of seven years of software support is a significant advantage, but it’s not the only factor to think about. Other things like price, availability, design, performance, camera quality, battery life, and customer service should also be part of your decision-making process.
Google has taken a remarkable and unique step by pledging seven years of software support for its Pixel 8 series, featuring its custom Tensor chip. This commitment could enhance the appeal and competitiveness of the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro in the smartphone arena, particularly for those who prioritize long-lasting and secure devices. Nonetheless, consumers must recognize that the promise of purchasing a Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro carries certain conditions and uncertainties that they should consider. Ultimately, consumers should make a well-informed and sensible decision that aligns with their requirements and choices.